I am obsessed with debt. Specifically, I am obsessed with how people afford their lives, and how best to afford mine. We live in a culture that never delays gratification. If we want something now, we buy it. And if we don't have the money, we charge it. Credit is the accepted norm. Most of my friends have more racked up on credit cards than in their savings accounts. I should know--I've been there.
This month, I am paying off the last little bit of my $35K student loan nine years later. Was it worth every penny? Absolutely. But if I had to go to NYU all over again, I'd figure out another way to finance my education.
My mother helped me get my first credit card when I was 16. She was a cosigner and we used it as a way to establish credit. Now, I never had a lot of debt--no more than $8K as a single adult. And I have always been able to pay it off. But it saddens me to think about all the things I've bought and discarded. I remember having my credit limit raised so that I could buy at $400 outfit. I think I only wore the outfit once.
Now, I am married with kids, and we're now doing things that will improve our financial situation so that we're not in debt for life. Because when you're not paying credit card bills, car loans, and student loans, you can actually save money. Hello!!! When you save money you make smarter choices. You can pay cash for things. You can invest. You can give. It changes your outlook on everything. You make better career choices because you're not working just for the money. You don't have to worry about whether an $8 lunch will put you into reserve credit (yes, that's debt, too). And, here's the best part ... Having more money allows you to be more creative.
Writers barely make any money. And if you're a poet, don't quit your day job. Poetry books are the worst selling books on the market, unless you're Billy Collins or Maya Angelou. BUT, if you're in good financial shape, you can feed your creativity by working for yourself. You can mix up low-paying or part-time jobs with work that keeps food on the table. You can self publish and promote your book, and do it debt free.
So by the end of summer, I hope to be and stay debt free. I believe "everything is everything." I believe parts of your life influence other parts. This summer, I will be able to take a few more risks (attend a workshop) because I can afford to do it. I can go back to teaching at a community center because I want to--not because I need the extra cash. And I'll have more time to write and spend time with my family because I'll be able to focus on what I have instead of what I need.